Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Limmud Update

My apologies for the long silence. I am at Limmud (feeling much better by the way) and it has taken me four days to find the computer room. Probably just as well, because I’m not sure that a blow-by-blow account of what lectures I’ve attended and which films I’ve watched would be of much interest. As it is, four days in, I can give you a more generalised overview of the Limmud experience.

For those who don’t know, Limmud is a five day Jewish conference, now in its 25th year, and attracts over 2000 attendees from all over the UK (and some from abroad too). There are academics, writers, artists, politicians, comedians and poets here – all presenting sessions on a range of themes from Bible, History, Film, Comedy, Art, Cooking, the list really is endless.

People who attend come from every walk of life – from very orthodox thru traditional streams of Judaism to no observance at all. And everyone is welcome and nobody is judged. (In public, at least). So the range of people is vast. That said, the delegates tend to fall into a number of major stereotypes. Or Tribes.

1. The Happy Clappies. These are the chaps who wear very colourful Bukharan kippot, stripy ponchos bought in Peru in 1974, fringed scarves wrapped at least twice round their necks. They all carry guitars. Some even carry balalaikas. They attend the sessions with ‘meditation’ or ‘mysticism’ in the title and they queue up for the vegetarian option in the dining room.

2. The Academics. These are, unsurprisingly, the visiting Professors from universities around the world who take Limmud very, very seriously. They do not attend a single arts based session the entire time they are here. On the contrary, they attend the heavy text-based, PhD thesis sessions back to back and rush around the campus like mad people, with the glasses on string flapping round their necks. They attack the week like Japanese tourists – they know exactly where they are going to be any given time on any day. I have no clue when I’m having lunch today. They know what session they’re attending in four days time at 3.40 pm.

3. The Harrassed Parents. They were told that Limmud was ‘a fantastic place to bring the kids’ and, more incredibly, they believed it. So they have dragged their kids to Nottingham and have spent the past four days tying to placate them for missing out on all the Christmas telly. They are trying to make Limmud a Christmas substitute, which is fitting, since everytime you see them, out of breath running from the kids play room to the kids dining room and back again, having a thoroughly miserable time, all they can say is ‘Limmud, it’s for the kids, innit.’

4. The Ladies Guild Road Trippers. Dressed in identical twin sets and big hair, they are on a session loop. Cookery demonstration (where the name of Evelyn Rose is uttered in hushed reverence) then Musical Interlude (Klezmer, preferably) then an exhibition of Chagall paintings. And then back to Cookery again. (You can never have too much Evelyn Rose).

5.The Students. They do not attend any sessions. They have not come to learn. They are on the pull.

Personally, it’s been a wonderful time. Firstly, I have drunk far too much and have flirted outrageously. Possibly casting myself into Tribe #5, but what they hell. I’m on holiday. The good news though is that, alcoholism notwithstanding, my hair is looking fabulous. You know how it is when you go away. You always worry that it’s not going to look as good as you can do it at home. It’s a girl thing. But luckily, no worries at all on that score.

I’ve not been able to attend all the sessions I’ve wanted to. It’s just not possible because there are so many. So I’ve had to choose which to attend and which to avoid. I’ve used the session ‘explanation’ in the guide book to help me choose. Anything with ‘kabbalah’, ‘audience participation’ or ‘journey’ (preceded by the word personal) is out. I know when I’ve made a mistake when the session begins with the presenter saying “Okay, let’s move the chairs to the back of the room and stand in a circle”. Time to make a sharp exit.

My only other major activity has been avoiding various ex-bad-dates that are wandering around the campus. As soon as you get the conference pack (which contains a list of all attendees) all under-35’s scan the list of names to see which dates from hell are here. Luckily, only 2 are here and I’ve managed to avoid them so far.

Well, my next session is about to start – I’m off to watch the film “Walking on Water”. I’ll update again soon – or when I’m back in London.


Blogger Elster said...

Sounds like a jolly good way to spend the holiday

5:12 pm  
Blogger baldricka said...

Glad to hear you are having a good time. What's the best thing you've been to? And the worst looking thing you avoided?

8:04 pm  
Blogger tafka PP said...

Ooh I feel like I am there with you... I was also a quasi-#5 for many years, avoiding various people and sessions which would require you to hug overly, bang on things or meditate for more than 10 seconds.

Oh, and does the 6th Class of participant- the "Inner Circle"- still exist?!


8:17 am  
Blogger MC Aryeh said...

I would so love that conference. I think they have one like it in NY. Glad you are having a wonderful time and that you are feeling better. Where is Scrappino during all this? Would like to hear more when you return!

7:53 am  
Anonymous Plony said...

I have to agree with TAFKAPP, for the inner circle, Limmud isn't a celebaration of religion - it is a religion! "You know who" is the deity (Sit Down, please! (in-joke alert)) and their role is to spread the gospel of cuddles and I'm OK, Your OK-ness.

4:50 pm  

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